Ombudsman reports issuing 52 complaint handling failure orders to social landlords between July and September 

The Housing Ombudsman has issued 52 complaint-handling failure orders (CHFO) between July and September this year, the highest number registered since CHFO reports were first published in 2021.

Fourteen of the fifty-two complaint handling failure orders issued were not complied with, which marks a decrease in the number of non-compliances compared to the previous quarter, from 42% to 27%.

Richard Blakeway Photo

The Ombudsman issued 52 complaint handling orders in the last quarter (July to September)

Between April and June 2023, 43 CHFOs were issued and 18 of those were not complied with.

During the quarter between July and September, Housing for Women was issued with five CHFOs and did not comply with four of these. The grounds for the CHFOs included not responding to contact from the Ombudsman and unreasonable delays in providing the Ombudsman with information.

Oxford Council was given a CHFO on the basis of unreasonable delays in accepting or progressing a complaint. The landlord requested an extension due to staff availability, however, the Ombudsman stated that no update was provided by the date required.

The report notes that L&Q was issued with five CHFOs, and though it complied with four of these, “the high number of orders given out suggest improvements need to be made”.

The report also states that there are regular meetings with the L&Q and it has developed an action plan for how it will improve, which will be monitored closely by the Ombudsman.

Metropolitan Thames Valley was issued with one CHFO on the grounds that evidence of compliance was not provided.

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Orders may be issued if a complaint cannot be progressed despite the Ombudsman making reasonable efforts to engage the landlord.

The Ombudsman guidance states that orders may also be issued “where there is evidence of a systemic issue within a landlord’s complaint handling”.

Non-compliances are where landlords fail to take the action specified in a complaint handling failure order. They can result in the Ombudsman making referrals to the landlord’s governing body or the Regulator of Social Housing, or publishing a report on the landlord’s non-compliance.

In response to the complaint handling failure orders and non-compliances, Housing for Women said: ”We were very disappointed to receive these orders. Following a full review, we have now implemented an improvement plan and are liaising with the Ombudsman directly to progress this.” 

An Oxford City Council spokesperson said: “We were extremely disappointed to receive our first Complaint Handling Failure Order in July. A response at the final stage of our complaints handling process was not sent to the complainant in accordance with the timelines set out in the complaint handling code. We have put measures in place to ensure that this cannot happen again. The tenant’s complaint itself was not upheld as the issue was the responsibility of a utility provider, not the council.”

Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing has been approached for comment, and L&Q declined to comment. 

The publication of the CFHO data follows six complaints made to the statistics regulator earlier this month about the Ombudsman’s maladministration rate metric, which it uses to assess and rank housing providers.